INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — The Indianapolis Colts' season is a story of an unlikely turnaround and a new coach's battle against cancer.
As inspiring as the tale of 2012 may be, the Colts say an important chapter is still unfinished.
“The story has yet to be written," said rookie tight end Coby Fleener. "Ultimately, it’s what we do in the playoffs that means something. Getting there is one thing, winning games there is another.”
The Colts go to Baltimore in the first round of the playoffs next weekend to play a team head coach Chuck Pagano knows well.
Pagano spent the past four years as a defensive coach for the Ravens.
“It’ll be a great challenge," he said. "They’ve got a great team, and they’ve got great players all over the place."
The Ravens rested several starters Sunday and lost 23-17 in the season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals. Baltimore (10-6) won the AFC North division title but has lost four of its last five contests.
Indianapolis (11-5), meanwhile, has won nine of 11 en route to a wildcard berth. The team enters the postseason with serious momentum.
Sunday’s 28-16 upset against the Houston Texans likely raised the Colts’ profile across the league, even if it did little to change attitudes inside the locker room.
“As a team, we’ve been confident in ourselves all year,” said quarterback Andrew Luck. “… (I)t’s always been a very confident locker room, so it is nice to get a win before the playoffs and have a little mojo going in.”
Luck is among a host of rookies who will be making their first playoff appearance next weekend. He said the youngsters will rely on veterans such as Robert Mathis, Reggie Wayne and Dwight Freeney, who have spent much of their careers on playoff teams.
Luck the Colts aren't happy just to make the playoffs, said Luck. Many expect to catch fire and make a postseason run.
If that happens, it will mark an dramatic improvement from last season's disastrous 2-14 finish, which snapped a string of nine straight playoff appearances. The poor showing cost team vice chairman Bill Polian his job. The Colts also ousted general manager Chris Polian and head coach Jim Caldwell.
Predictions for this year were dire by the time four-time MVP quarterback Peyton Manning joined a host of veterans exiting the team facility last spring.
But first-year general manager Ryan Grigson assembled a hungry, young team. The Colts rallied around Pagano - before and after he was diagnosed with leukemia. The new coach missed 12 games over three months for treatment.
As the postseason begins next weekend, Indianapolis again will be the underdog.
But the Colts have beaten the odds already.
“We talked about it a long time ago,” Pagano said. “We asked guys what your legacy is going to be. What do you want them to say about you, and what do you want them to say about this team 10 or 15 or 20 years from now? We’re still writing it. We’re still writing our story because the journey continues.”
George Bremer writes for The Herald Bulletin in Anderson, Ind.